‘Delta’ is Approaching… How Are Local Authorities Fighting Against the Virus?

During the last year attention of the Ukrainians was drawn to the fight against coronavirus, with the COVID-19 Response Fund being one of the instruments used by the government. However, in view of the areas into which funds from the Fund were allocated, it would have been more appropriate to name it the Road Construction and Internal Ministry Personnel Bonuses Fund.

A number of regions addressed the government with requests to allocate extra money from the COVID-19 Response Fund. However, none of the requests were granted. In 2021, despite resonating claims made by the central governmental authorities about effective fight against the virus spread, local self-governments were hung out to dry amid the pandemic, occasionally receiving government subventions for various medical measures. To cut a long story short, this became the main reason for numerous conflicts between the government and mayors. 

Moreover, as of the end of 2020, almost 18% of the COVID-19 Response Fund remained unused. This money could have been allotted to combat the pandemic regionally. But the government failed to work out a necessary allocation plan.

Scientists warn that this fall will witness a new wave of the Delta strain. 

Drawing on the examples of different parts of Ukraine – Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kramatorsk, L’viv, Odesa, Rivne and Chernivtsi, – analysts of the expert organization StateWatch investigated into how effectively local authorities managed to cope with the first nation-wide quarantine in the history of independent Ukraine to understand risks brought by the Delta variant in the fall. 

In particular, these became the funds allotted by city councils to the fight against the pandemic in the sphere of health care in 2020 as well as expenditures planned to cover the same needs this year that were subjected to thorough analysis.  

What city received the most ‘COVID’ funds during the pandemic?

At the beginning of 2020, the world encountered the first large-scale pandemic in the century, with Ukraine not being an exception. Both the population and authorities were stricken with panic resulting from acute deficit of individual protection gear. Neither medical workers nor ordinary citizens felt protected. So local authorities were made responsible in part to protect their citizens from the spread of previously unknown disease. It was necessary to make effective decisions as soon as possible, since each wasted minute could cost somebody’s life. 

However, did all local authorities manage to resolve the problem?

How much money from local budgets was spent to combat COVID-19 in 2020-21?

How Are Local Authorities Fighting Against the Virus?

Despite the fact that during two years one billion hryvnas was allocated to combat the coronavirus in multimillion Kyiv, it is Vinnytsia that turned out to be the most provided with ‘COVID’ funds. 

According to the data provided by the Vinnytsia city council, at least 283 million hryvnas was allocated from the local budget to healthcare to fight against COVID-19 during 2020-2021, with the city population being only 370 thousand people. In other words, one resident of Vinnytsia received 764 hryvnas of ‘COVID’ funds, which is quite a large sum in comparison with other cities. At the same time, the aforementioned city council informed that in 2021 they had allocated 107.7 million hryvnas to the Department of Healthcare. However, the ‘COVID’ funds were allotted to the following programs:

  • 74.8 million hryvnas – ‘Multipurpose Stationery Medical Assistance to Population’
  • 25.6 million hryvnas – ‘Obstetrical Assistance to the Pregnant, New Mothers and Newborn children’ 
  • 4.3 million hryvnas – “Primary Medical Assistance to Population Provided by Centers of Primary Medical Assistance’
  • 2.5 million hryvnas – ‘Construction of Medical Institutions’
  • 373 thousand hryvnas – ‘Dental Assistance to Population’

The question how dental help to the population is related to combating the spread of coronavirus remains open. However, members of the Vinnytsia City Council assure that expenditures within this program will be made to fight against COVID-19.

It stresses the fact that funds to fight against the pandemic are often ‘hidden’ in different, at the first glance inconspicuous programs, which makes it difficult to analyze efficiency of respective expenditures. 

The second position is occupied by Odesa. The amount of money spent there to fight against coronavirus is 398 million hryvnas, with the city population slightly exceeding 1 million. In other words, the sum of ‘COVID’ fund per capita there is 392 hryvnas. 

The capital occupies only the third place. Only 1 billion hryvnas was allocated from the budget for around 3 million people or, in other words, 368 hryvnas of ‘COVID’ funds for one Kyiv resident. 

In Rivne such amount made the least – only 141 hryvnas for a city resident. During two years, only 34.5 million hryvnas were allocated for 245.28 thousand city population.

In Ivano-Frankivsk the amount of ‘COVID’ funds per capita is not much bigger (164 hryvnas). In the last two years, the total amount of 39 million hryvnas has been allocated from the city budget. The official web site of Ivano-Frankivsk indicated that 31.9 million hryvnas out of that amount was allocated in 2020 for the following needs:

  • 13.2 million hryvnas was allocated to buy disinfectors, individual protection hear and transportation of medical personnel
  • 6.4 million hryvnas was allocated to buy up medications
  • 7.8 million hryvnas was allocated to pay bonuses to medical personnel
  • 4.5 million hryvnas was allocated to provide welfare assistance.

In 2021, 7.1 million hryvnas was allocated from the budget of Ivano-Frankivsk to provide on-time welfare assistance (6.1 million hryvnas) and buy up oxygen concentrators (1 million hryvnas).

What to do?

Currently, the disease statistics is low and steady. However, taken the last year experience and warnings about contagious Delta strain, it is necessary to start preparing for the fight against the third wave of COVID-19 straight away. 

Therefore, local self-government bodies which are the least provided with ‘COVID’ funds have to reallocate expenditures for combating COVID-19 as soon as possible. This must be also the stance of the central government bodies which keep allotting ‘COVID’ funds to projects that have nothing to do with the fight against the spread of coronavirus. 

April of 2021 saw changes introduced to the budget and budget program ‘Measures related to the fight with acute respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and its consequences’ which became a mini-‘COVID’ fund. 

The given program aims at getting the population vaccinated and preventing the spread of coronavirus in Ukraine. The total amount in the budget program comes to 3 billion hryvnas. 

However, the Interior Ministry has managed to receive other 800 million hryvnas within the new program.

At the same time, in April, the government withdrew 6.5 billion hryvnas from supplemental payments to medical personnel locally and redirected them to the vaccination. 

For this reason, it is of primary importance for the central and local governments to coordinate their efforts and jointly combat COVID-19.

It is today that the central government has to ensure that high-quality vaccination is held and allocate 2.2. billion hryvnas from the mini-‘COVID’ fund solely to maintenance of hospitals and their personnel locally. 

Cities, in turn, have to review their budgets as to the funds allocated into areas which are not on today’s agenda. In particular, it is necessary to mobilize utmost resources to make supplemental payments to medical personnel at communal hospitals and ensure that these hospitals have enough beds, oxygen and needed medical equipment.  

This analytical article has been written within the project ‘Civil control over budget expenditures to fight against COVID-19 in regions,’ which is being implemented with support of the Black Sea Fund of Regional Cooperation, German Marshall Fund (USA). Positions and opinions expressed or published/voiced in public do not necessarily coincide with the position of the Black Sea Fund of Regional Cooperation or its partners.